Claressa Shields leads U.S. women’s boxing to gold medal

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The United States’ boxing program is going home with a gold medal after all.

Seventeen-year-old Claressa Shields represented her country proudly with a decisive 19-12 win over Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova. It was the first time in history that women’s boxing had been allowed to compete in the Olympic Games.

“I will probably wear the medal every day for the first year,” Shields told NBC Olympics’ Ryan Maquinana. “I earned it. This is my medal. I worked too hard. I worked really hard for this medal.”

All that hard work paid off. In her final bout, Shields dominated Torlopova. The Flint, Michigan native controlled the distance with her jab and became more aggressive as the fight went on.

Shields’ right hand and superior hand speed posed too many problems for her 33-year-old opponent. When her name was announced, Shields shuffled around the ring and smiled at the cheering crowd.

“I think I’m still numb,” Shields told Maquinana afterwards. “I don’t even know if this is real right now. It feels unbelievable. I can’t believe this is happening right now.”

Shields got to the finals by beating Sweden’s Anna Laurell in the quarterfinals 18-14, and then Marina Volnova of Kazakhstan, 29-15 in the semis. It was a very impressive run by Shields, who will be starting her senior year of high school this fall.

With the victory, the U.S. earned its 48th gold medal and 109th all time boxing medal.

Flyweight Marlen Esparza also contributed to the medal count by winning bronze. Esparza was heavily covered and the poster child of the U.S. women’s boxing team leading up to London, but was just edged by Shields’ brilliance.

Taking two of the three spots on the podium, Shields and Esparza can return home knowing they’ve made their country very proud.